Dangerous Illusions: Who Stole Ringo’s Drums?

Q: What do Ringo’s drums – the iconic Ludwig Downbeat made famous on the Ed Sullivan Show, a set of Zildjians – straight from the depths of the family fault, murder, mystery, sex and betrayal have in common?

A: Dangerous Illusions, the new literary crime novel by Joseph J. Gabriele.

Percussionist and novelist Joseph J. Gabriele paints an incredibly rich and vibrant picture in his 268-page murder mystery thriller. While hosting a lavish party at his Park Avenue apartment, Eliot Sexton, a Manhattan writer and percussionist, finds his friend and former U.S. Diplomat murdered and “THE” iconic drum set, worshiped by millions, stolen from his office – and his 70 party guests see nothing.

Mr. Gabriele leads the reader on an unforgettable journey through Manhattan in search of the killer, the thief, the drums, and answers to questions that have unpredictable and volatile consequences. New York is never what it appears to be.

The seemingly effortless blend of drum and percussion details with modern writing is superb, to say the least, and aficionados from the Not So Modern Drummer community will truly appreciate the style in which Mr. Gabriele presents classic instruments, drum shops, and legendary drummers – from Baby Dodds, Chick Webb and Gene Krupa to Joe Morello and Ringo Starr. As a drummer and reader you are instantly transported to the time and place, and the memories that made drumming history – and the many reasons each of us are drumming today. We were equally impressed with the subtle weaving of rhythmic patterns in the writing – and it had us tapping them out as we followed along, slowly becoming one with the characters.

Mr. Gabriele has presented a can’t-put-down thriller, and is well worth the read. The drum addict within us all will appreciate the attention to detail – thanks to Mr. Gabriele’s seven years of researching and writing – conveying knowledge from drum collectors, historians and experts from around the world – including the Ludwig family themselves.


“Not since Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon has an object of desire caused so much trouble.” – Craigie Zildjian


Dangerous Illusions will be released in hardcover on February 9, 2014 – the 50th anniversary of Ringo and the rest of the Fab Four making their debut in America on the Ed Sullivan Show. It is currently available as an e-book at all major online retailers. For more information, visit: www.dangerousillusions.com.


Bello's Fiberglass Fusion Kit

The Bello Drum Company is the brain child of Bill Haller. In his small workshop in Greenville Pennsylvania, Bill constructs the fiberglass drum shells by hand. Fiberglass drums have been around for five decades and have withstood the test of time, even though they don’t have a large market share. Bello drums are a niche boutique item. All drums are built to order with a good number of color and size options.

The set that Bello sent us to review is called a fusion kit in their price list. The sizes 12 x 20 bass drum. 10 x 9 small tom, 14 x 14 floor tom, and a 13 x 6.5 snare drum in a beautiful purple finish. I would normally call this a “compact kit”, but, upon playing them the small sizes belie the large sound so there is no compromising of tone for the convenient sizes. All the drums had a very nice square badge secured with four small screws. The lugs are pretty standard rounded lugs that give the drum a nice look. Hoops are all 2.3 mm.

The bass drum came with gull wing spurs which fold nicely into the curve of the shell.  I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for shallow bass drums, so I really looked forward to giving this one a test run. The 12” depth makes for a short, quick response. The drum was fitted with an Aquarian clear batter head with built in ring and the front head was a a black Attack Terry Bozzio single ply with port. The wood bass hoops had a nice glossy clear finish and were a nice color contrast with the purple shells.  I tried the drum with and without muffling . When muffled, the drum had a nice punchy thump with good low end. Without muffling the same qualities remained, plus a nice sustained low note from the front head. I tried two tunings; a loose medium low and a high jazz-ish tuning. No problem in the tuning range department. Fibreglass drums have always been known for their volume and this bass drum is no exception.

Toms. The toms had a rich, fat, clear, musical sound with a nice sustain. Very warm. The heads were Aquarian coated single ply on top and Attack Terry Bozzio clear single ply on bottom. Both toms had a good long sustain and a wide tuning range. The mounted tom comes with a RIMS holder and bracket for an L arm, but no tom arm or bass drum mounting bracket were included.

The 13” snare drum was very responsive with a nice dry spot in the middle of the head and a nice ringing when played near the hoop. The snare beds were shaped correctly so it has a nice snare response. The throw off is a Taye type lever – a simple throw off. The drum tuned well at low and high tunings. The low tuning with a zero ring sounded especially fat.

All in all, this Bello kit is a very balanced set of drums. This would be a very nice versatile kit that could be used for small jazz and coffeehouse gigs as well as louder pop/rock gigs where a punchy sound is required.

Because of the fiberglass shells and shell hardware that is on the small side, the drums are very light weight. Fibreglass is also very durable and impervious to extreme tempatures and moisture. The 12” long bass drum makes the footprint of the set smaller than your average rock kit, facilitating set up on tight stages.

Bill Haller is making some nice instruments. Give Bill a call or send him an email if you want to find out more. He’s a very hands-on, amiable guy with a great off kilter sense of humor. He can be reached through the Bello website – www.bellodrums.com.


Holland Drums' Muffin Top

Every time I go to a drum show, I’m always looking for something new and significant.  In an art form that is so basic and primitive; the drum and the percussive arts in general, it’s really hard to surprise me.  Over the last 150 years, we’ve seen incredible innovations and variations on the theme, leaving us with some very good instruments.  So now we’re left with simple refinements, right?  Not just yet!  There’s always someone thinking a little left of center, and those are the guys I’m looking for.  This year at the Chicago Drum Show, I found another one of……. those guys.

Enter, Holland Drums.  If ever there was a percussion instrument that I didn’t know I needed 25 years ago…..this is one of them!

Scott Holland, of Holland Drums, has made a significant hybrid instrument that effectively crosses the lines between the snare drum and the hand drum.  If you find yourself working with singer/song-writers or have the need to provide lower volumes and different timbres, this is a drum you should give serious consideration.

The “Muffin Top” drum sits on a regular snare drum stand and was originally meant to be played with your hands, with and without snares.  But as with most good instruments, it allows you infinite possibilities.  When backing up various artists over the years, the variety of music has generally allowed me to push the creativity of the situation because I don’t have a lot of rules and regulations when I come up with drum and percussion parts.  That being said, the only rule I always keep is to “play for the song.”  That rule has kept me busy creating different and unique set ups that fit each situation.

When using the Muffin-Top drum, I’ve found it to perform not only as a centerpoint piece, as does a snare drum on a drum set, but also as an auxiliary drum in a non traditional set up that is more percussion based.  If need be, it can be switched out at a moment’s notice with a conventional snare drum for a little hand drumming.  If a significant portion of your gig's set is on the quiet side, you can use this as your primary drum.  I’ve found it’s also great with sticks and brushes, as well numerous other implements used to effect different textures.

This drum provides great sonic opportunities with and without the snares applied.  Imagine being able to play a part with your hands on a snare drum without wracking your knuckles on the metal hoop, as you would with a conventional snare drum.  Then, with a flick of the snare throw-off, playing something of a Latin nature, then switch it up again with a pair of brushes or sticks, without changing drums!

As part of a drum set, there is a whole world of new possibilities when combining this “hand-drum” with your feet.  Kick, hat, cowbell, tambourine, or whatever else you can whack with a pedal, will offer continued pattern combinations and grooves that will definitely be something new for most single drummer set-ups. When added as part of a hand drum/percussion set-up, this drum fits in especially nice.  With the snares off, it provides a “neutral” hand drum sound that isn’t quite a conga, nor a djembe sound.  Add the snares and you have a nice soft snare sound, perfect for those times when it’s all about color.

When looking at the Muffin Top drum, it looks different from any other drum I’ve ever seen.

At its heart is a solid, 6” depth, stave construction shell made of bubinga wood, milled to a unique design to accommodate a Remo djembe head, which has a 2.5” drop.  Solid walnut stave construction shells are also very popular.  The batter side lugs, rods and claws are Remo as well, but, the black counter hoop is custom made locally.

On the bottom rests a standard, conventional 14” snare head. A gold-tone, triple flanged counter hoop and Adonis lugs nicely round out this model. This particular drum has “split style” Puresound snares, and a Trick throw off.  I particularly like the very gradual snare bed that’s barely visible and doesn’t seem to make any negative impression on the head, which helps provide nice sensitivity.

Holland Drums utilizes different choices for different model combinations. Wood, snares, throw-offs, lugs, heads, gold-tone or chrome hoops, etc. are all optional.  There is a 16” x 16” Cocktail Bass Drum available that will offer even more sonic opportunities for set-up combinations.

Being a custom shop, Holland Drums has successfully combined two completely different drums, from different parts of the world, with fantastic results. Thus opening the doors for optional sounds and playing combinations, which is really what we all want in our drum choices, and Scott Holland has certainly succeeded in doing so.  I really do wish I had this drum 25 years ago!

From Lancaster County PA, Thoughts from the shop………. Brian Hill